PHOTOGRAPHERImages courtesy of Collina Strada

Get inside Hillary’s world

Hillary Taymour is light years beyond her peers. Upon entering her apartment, the young designer proclaimed her “weirdness,” offering thoughtfully composed Tumblr-style visual responses to my interview questions.  Unconventional to say the least, but breaking from the mold is in the young designer’s DNA. Launched in Fall 2009, her brand Collina Strada is designed for “independent humans embracing a positively fluid attitude in their wears.” While most millennials use social media as the primary source of brand-promotion, Hillary uses it for “case-studies” on social obsessions like sunless tanner or memes to visualize the line’s ethos “about random thoughts.” Her mind is best understood aesthetically, and the rising talent has garnered accolades for her politically charged, visually stimulating presentations. Using fashion as a platform for impacting change, her last three collections focused on genderless clothing, Black Lives Matter and an anti-Trump casting call.

Her progressive vision is echoed in her thirst for everything that has “never been done before.” In an industry that feeds off coveted ‘it’ items and homogenous trends, Hilary envisions clothes that change with her mood and see-through fleece. She motions upwards towards the ceiling in admitting her designs come from another realm. If she could teleport there she would take me with, but unfortunately she hasn’t devised that – yet. Here, through a visual and verbal dialogue, read on as Hillary gives us a window to her world.

 

COOLS: You started your line in LA in 2008, but have largely developed it in NYC. How do the two cities blend into the Collina Strada aesthetic?

Hillary: They don’t. It’s its own thing. It doesn’t live anywhere. It lives somewhere far away from here.

COOLS: Collina Strada has an inherent edginess, yet is also an ethical brand using natural fibers and vegetable tanned leathers. What kind of culture are you creating?

HT: The culture is for everyone. I want people that have knowledge to it to be be smart shoppers. Not someone who’s into fast fashion. They’re going to get their trends somewhere else.

COOLS: You’ve made a name for yourself through your socially charged presentations. How do you use fashion as a medium for change?

HT: I’m trying but I don’t think it works. Hopefully somebody feels better about it, or changes their opinion. All we can do is use our voice. So, the small voice I have, I try to use it. See if it works.

COOLS: And you cast the shows yourself?

HT: I cast everything myself. The last three with political movements I casted myself. It’s a concept. We start the concept before the clothes. For Black Lives Matter, we knew it was going to be an all black casting before we started designing the clothes. It’s definitely not an afterthought.

COOLS: It’s more influenced by what’s going on in your natural surroundings and diffusing that through the collections?

HT: Yeah.

COOLS: What other shifts would you like to see in the industry?  

HT: All shifts. There’s too much product, too much overload. Social media has ruined fashion. It’s birthed a lot of people who think that they’re fashion designers. It has given help and awareness, but also created a bad customer; they want everything now; they can’t have it; they’ve already seen it. By the time that they see it in a store, it’s 6 months later, and it’s old, and they want it on sale. So, it’s ruined the industry. But it’s created more art. And it’s a place for more artists around the world that might not have been seen.

COOLS: You find it oversaturated, but do you use it for inspiration?

HT: I love those kids with the memes. It makes me want to make things that don’t exist. You see so much, and you’re like oh, how do I make something that does not exist? It filters out a lot of bullshit. And I applaud them. I mean our main inspiration last season was from random vacation photos on Flickr. We do find some things on social, but I try not to design that way because if you do design that way, you end up like Dapper Dan. If everyone sees it, it’s already made in my thought process.

COOLS: How does that affect your design process?

HT: Well the brand is me, and this is what I think of. It’s just an outlet for all my weirdness. But I don’t believe in putting weirdness into clothes. It resonates a tiny bit, but I know people don’t wear weird clothes. So I don’t try to over design a collection, I try to under design it. But have the ideas behind it be quite strange, to where people think that it’s strange, but it’s actually just a pair of pants.

COOLS: You’ve also been recognized for the ‘other-worldy’-ness of your presentations. Does that evolve through the design process, or do the clothes come after the visuals?

HT: Usually. The purple collection came because I wanted bubble wrap on the floor. Marble floor tiles that popped like bubble wrap, and no one could make it for me. And they were supposed to be purple, so the whole collection just became purple. Things that don’t really exist, I try to make them. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Most of the time it doesn’t. It’s unconscious. I just need to make it. If it gets in the line, it gets in the line, but I will obsess about it until it is physically proven to me that it cannot exist. And for those things, hopefully they have it on the next planet.

COOLS: What else does the future hold?

HT: See through. Clothes that change based on my mood. Maybe they’re mood-changing clothes. I’d like to create fabrics that feel like they’ve never been done before. But in a very normal way, like doing a see-through sweatshirt. You’re like “Oh, I understand what that is, but I’ve never seen it that way before.” But because of what’s possible in life, I haven’t yet. I’m not Gucci. I can’t create knits that cost $10,000 to develop two yards. I don’t have that.

COOLS: If someone opened up your mind and went inside, what would they see?

HT: That’s what the visual interview is gonna be. It changes based on my mood, it changes based on everything. We’re women, we’re emotional creatures. You’re feeling sexy. You’re feeling gross. You wanna be a man. You wanna be this. You wanna be whatever. So it’s constantly, like, a process. But if you opened up my mind you wouldn’t see clothes. You’d see like, weird animals that don’t exist. I’m really into genetics, and species. Lots of cat-dogs.

COOLS: Anything else you’d like to share with the world?

HT: Be kind.

 

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